I have worked at what I do for more than half a decade and I have seen things. You will expect to get used to some of these things, but I still do not know how people get off thinking being retarded is cool.
#U gotta be Kiddin’
Quite recently I encountered a situation that gave me pause.
From the moment she walked on board, I sensed she was trouble. I escorted her to her seat with my eyes only. Not just because of her should-have-been-hawt looks; nor because her top was made from some form of lace so transparent nothing was left to the imagination; nor was it the lace wig, fixed lashes and nails that made me wonder how many books could have been held together with the glue she alone had on her person; nor was it the coke and fanta effect of her fingers versus her knuckles due ‘toning creams’ when she showed me her boarding pass, holding it between index and middle finger in a flicking motion Ron Weasley would have envied. There was just something about her.
With other passengers coming through, I soon forgot about her. But some people have a problem with being anonymous, and she fell clearly into that category.
Securing the cabin after the safety demonstration, I noticed she had two pairs of shoes – one of which she wore, and the other just sat there. Nothing wrong with that, except she was at the overwing exit which was an emergency exit with the extra shoes posing a trip hazard in the event of an emergency evacuation, so that was a ‘no, no.’
“Ma’am” silence. “Excuse me Ma’am.” She turns her face very slowly in my direction. “Unfortunately Ma’am we can’t have loose items at emergency exits, is it alright if we put your shoes away for take off?” Without saying a word to me, she ever so slowly turned her gaze out the window.
“Ma’am, I will have to insist that you put the spare pair of shoes away for take off. While you might be able to get off the aircraft in an emergency, your shoes may prevent anybody else going out the over wing exit. All it takes is one person tripping over those shoes and the exit becomes useless.”
She was turning her head to, maybe, mouth off at me when a voice behind me bellowed “Na hu dem dey talk to so wey no dey hear? Madam if u no fit wear d shoe open window throway am!” This was met with raucous laughter. She coloured slightly, looked at me squarely in the eyes then stuck both feet, with shoes on, into the ‘offending’ pair and raised both legs for me to take the shoes – she was sat by the window so she had the leg room.
I pushed the crew call button above her to get my colleagues’ attention. I signed to her, and with a puzzled frown she brought what I had requested. Passengers in the area had gone quiet, so the rustling was quite loud in the deafening silence. I looked pointedly from wearer to shoe and back to wearer before saying in a voice that carried and a smile that dripped thick syrupy smugness “If you put the shoes in this bag, I will stow them for you.”
With a “Humph” she kicked both shoes off, and put them one after the other into the bin liner I had got. I very deliberately rolled the bag up, told her “Thank you ma’am”, put the bag in the hat rack above her and then walked forward to take my seat for take off.
On a flight from Lagos, I shut the final aircraft door, advised passengers about this and asked that all electrical devices be turned off – specifically mentioning “iPads, iPods, iPhones, Blackberries and any other type of mobile phones.” After manual demonstrations, I was walking through the cabin when, at the bulkhead, I saw a man with his phone still on.
“Please switch your mobile phone off sir,” I said. I would have moved on but his reply stopped me.
“That’s what I am trying to do. Or do you want me to stop?” He said. This with his right ankle crossed over his left knee, his right hand casually resting on the arm rest with his weight on his left elbow which was resting on the other arm rest, and the phone – a Blackberry – in his left hand. The phone had a password and he was trying to enter the password one-handed. Maybe possible if he was left handed, but dude was obviously not and he was failing at typing in the correct password.
“Two things, sir,” I told him “One, you will not take that tone of voice with me sir; and two, your phone should have been switched off 10 minutes ago when I first announced.” Finishing with a smile.
“Ehn, don’t take that tone of voice with me too. I am not a baby. And you are distracting me standing there.”
“Simply take out the battery sir, I find that usually works.” I told him.
“Can you get a move on and let me take care of this?” He asked.
“Unfortunately sir, I can’t tell the Captain the cabin is secure unless it is, and if he doesn’t hear from me we won’t take off.” The Captain had called my station twice already.
“Yea, right!” He exclaimed, and with such impeccable timing, the aircraft slowed to a stop. “If you look outside sir,” I said pointing out the window on his side, and raising my voice slightly, “you will find we have stopped moving. That would be you delaying us here sir.”
“Ol boy switch ya fone off!” The passenger seated next to him who had been quiet throughout our exchange snapped at him, looking at his wristwatch. Maybe as a sign that he had an appointment he did not want to be late for.
Without a squeak, the gentleman removed the cover of his BB and yanked out the battery. “Thank you very much sir.” I said, went to my seat and called the Captain, and then we were on our way.
This happened around my first Christmas on the job. Flights were really full coming into Nigeria. In fact, it was normal to find more passengers than seats waiting at check in. Getting on a stand by list was akin to the pursuit of the Holy Grail: sought by many, available to only the ‘worthy’. And if you got on a flight, the one thing you did not want to do was get bumped off.
During passenger boarding, a crew call button had gone off. It was not in my zone, but because it could be any number of things – including an emergency – I went to get it.
“Good morning ma’am, you…” “This aircraft is not going anywhere unless this woman gets what she wants!” A passenger snapped, cutting me off mid sentence.
“If you tell me how I can help, I may be able to.” I tried to stay calm.
Not allowing her say a word, the man repeated “I say this flight is not going anywhere unless this woman gets another seat. I am a lawyer and I can sue the airline. Can’t you see she’s traveling with an infant? This is inhuman, infact, inhumane.” By this time I had heard enough.
“Sir, are you traveling together?” I asked. “No, but…” “Then can you please let me deal with this situation sir?” I said not letting him finish. “Young man, stop speaking English and get her another seat. Move her forward even. Otherwise we are not going anywhere.” At this I cocked my head and gave him the full benefit of my icy stare. “Did you just threaten me sir? Did you just threaten all of us, sir?” Inside I was raging, but outside I was the Arctic.
“No I did not.” He said. “But you repeated here three times that this flight would not go anywhere unless your conditions were met. Sounded like a threat to me.” “Errm… No, you see… Er, you know…” I left him stammering and turned to the woman.
“So madam, how may I help you?”
And for the first time she spoke “You see, I am traveling with an infant and I requested a bulkhead seat when I booked my flight only to be given this seat when I checked in.”
“Madam, let me start by apologizing for the inconvenience. On today’s flight, we have more infants than available bulkhead seats. Can I check if there are any two seats available so you can at least have an extra seat to use in flight.” Even as I walked away, I knew it was an impossibility, but I had to appear to be doing something.
I went to my On Board Manager and explained the situation to her and my actions so far. “Look,” she told me, “There are no free seats, so please ask her if she wants to go on this flight or not. I hate flying during the holidays.”
I returned to the woman and said “Unfortunately ma’am, the flight is really full, but I will check on you from time to time to see how you are doing.” Really lame, but the best I could do given the situation, and she knew it. “What do you mean? I booked online and requested a cot for my infant! What do you mean I have to sit here for six hours with my baby? I am sure my baby is the youngest on board, why can’t I get preferential treatment on that ground?” She obviously had plucked some Dutch courage from the man next to her, and maybe was counting on other passengers getting involved. And she was correct. The man next her reared his head again with talks of lawsuits and disembarkation and further lawsuits for breach of contract.
Not even paying any attention to him, I made eye contact with her then said, “Madam would you like to ask any of the other mothers on board to switch places with you?”
“But no one will give up their baby cots for me. D’you know that I can say I am not going again and delay this flight?” With those words she showed her hand. Error.
“Ma’am if you want to get off we can’t stop you. You will delay the flight another 20, maybe 30 minutes, but I have checked the system and all our flights are booked full till the 28th (this was the 22nd). So really ma’am, it’s your call.” Checkmate!
“Alright, I will go.” She mumbled, and not a single word from her Knight in Tarnished Armour.
#Monkey See, Monkey Do
Just the other week I was in class for my recurrent training. One of the videos shown during the week was a “1980s hijack of an airplane”. While I will not bore you with details of the entire incident, let me point out here that the Captain was forced to land on water – a ditching.
As soon as it became clear what was going to happen, the Cabin crew helped the passengers with their life jackets. Some of them proceeded to inflate their life jackets – maybe out of fear, or out of a sense of ‘Sabinus’ – and others followed suit even though the crew had announced and stressed “Do not inflate life jackets until you are outside the aircraft.”
Now when the aircraft hit the water, it broke into four parts and yet other passengers popped their life jackets. Long story short: passengers with already inflated jackets rose towards the ceiling of the aircraft as water gushed in, and were trapped. Out of 175 souls on board, only 50 survived. Three of the survivors who were narrating left their life jackets un-inflated and either swam out of the aircraft or were carried by the rushing water out of the aircraft before inflating their jackets and staying afloat till help came.
So the next time you travel – by whatever means – do listen to the announcements made on board. And if you are one of those who think the safety demo is funny, do have a rethink lest you catch a fatal case of Monkey see Monkey do.
PS: Question everything in the pursuit of knowledge, understanding and self. For when you run out of questions, you do not just run out of answers, you run out of hope.